A bit of chicken soup as an appetizer can help
cut the amount of food you eat by 20 percent.
That's the conclusion of one of several studies
presented Monday at Digestive Disease Week 2007,
in Washington, D.C.
Some other findings: Electrical stimulation of
the sacral nerve along the spine can help treat
chronic constipation; a lifelong vegetarian diet
can reduce the risk of colon cancer; and special
cells in the intestine might be targets for treating
Dr. D. D. Chen, of Duke University, and her colleagues
found that eating about 160 calories of a fatty
soup, such as chicken soup, before dinner reduced
the total amount of food consumed by 20 percent.
"Fatty soup as an appetizer reduces food intake
in both lean and obese subjects," Chen said.
"This may have a therapeutic potential for
In the study, 12 normal-weight people and 12 obese
people were given soup before sitting down to an
all-you-can-eat pizza meal. Both normal-weight and
obese people ate less after having the fatty soup,
Chen said. However, the same wasn't true for
a protein-based soup, which in the study was made
from eggs and contained no fat. These people chowed
down as usual, the researchers found.
In another study, Dr. Y. Shastri, of the Department
of Medicine at Goethe University Hospital, Frankfurt/Main,
Germany, and colleagues found that people who ate
a vegetarian diet over their lifetime had a significantly
lower risk of developing colon cancer.
In the study, Shastri's team collected data
on 9,700 people, of whom more than 2,000 were lifelong
vegetarians. During five years of follow-up, the
researchers found significantly fewer cases of colon
cancer among the vegetarians than among non-vegetarians.
"A vegetarian diet can reduce the risk of
colon cancer only if it is followed from birth,"
Shastri said. "This study proves that a lifelong
vegetarian diet prevents colorectal cancer."
Two other studies presented Monday involved electrically
stimulating the sacral nerve to relieve constipation
and the possibility that mucosal enterochromaffin
cells in the intestine could be targets for treating
digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome
In the first study, Dr. T. C. Dudding, of the Department
of Physiology at St. Mark's Hospital in London,
England, and colleagues used implanted electrodes
to stimulate the sacral nerve in patients who suffered
from chronic constipation and had failed to find
relief with other treatment.
"Sacral nerve stimulation improves bowel frequency
and other symptoms and improves the quality of life
for patients with idiopathic constipation,"
For 43 patients in the trial who received the stimulation,
the average number of times they went to the bathroom
increased from 3.4 times a week to 6.1 times a week.
In addition, time spent on the toilet decreased
from 17.6 minutes to 9.3 minutes, and straining
decreased from 4.4 times a week to 2.9 times. In
addition, abdominal pain decreased from 4.4 days
a week to 2 days, according to the researchers.
The second study, by Dr. P. Voland of the Medical
Department of the Technical University of Munich,
Germany, and colleagues, uncovered one role played
by mucosal enterochromaffin cells in the intestine.
It appears these cells react to some spices and
herbs, such as thyme, cloves, lily-of-the-valley
and brown algae. These substances stimulate the
cells to release serotonin, Voland's group found.
Serotonin controls the functioning of the intestines
and conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea and irritable
bowel syndrome. "These cells are a potential
target for the treating gastrointestinal diseases
and other disorders," Voland said.